An article appeared in CNNMoney.com on January 5, 2012, which was titled “Doctors going broke.” The article discussed a growing problem wherein independent medical practices are facing “serious financial issues.” Reasons listed were: shrinking insurance reimbursements, changing regulations, and rising business costs, combined with reductions in both Medicare and health plan reimbursements. Any way you slice it, there is increasing financial pressure on the independent medical practice.
So, what does this have to do with the independent optometric practice? Yep, you guessed it…optometry is faced with the very same problems and then some. Don’t forget, we struggle with continuing obstacles to optometric participation in health plans.
We do, however, have one very big advantage: direct access to patients through stand-alone vision plans. Stand-alone vision plans, such as VSP, provide critical diversity of access for the independent practice.
The key is to maintain multiple ways by which patients may connect with our practices, especially in these uncertain economic times. Medical integration is a work in progress for optometry. It should be clear that our independent practices must remain solvent and viable as we work toward equality in medical participation. We simply must protect current access to buffer economic pressure on our practices while we work to resolve difficulties with health plans. That is why it is so important that stand alone vision plans be allowed to participate in the exchanges under health care reform so that they can continue to effectively compete in the marketplace and bring patients to our practices.
As I see it, we need to be careful what we wish for…it is never a good strategy to have all the eggs in one basket. Independent optometry is far stronger with diverse access to patients. Not only that, medicine has its problems too as was discussed above. The key is to preserve current access through multiple channels including stand alone vision, as we work to achieve parity in the uncertain hands of health plans.